A regional coronavirus drive-through testing centre in Penrith has closed after the town’s rugby club opted to reclaim the use of its site to boost business and social use.
It has been revealed, however, that a “walk-through” testing area could now open in the town as early as next month.
In late April, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) unveiled a host of regional drive-through testing centres across the country at which appointments could be booked for swab tests.
One such facility opened at Penrith Rugby Club, which leased its Winters Park car park free of charge, initially for a three-month period.
But with no competitive rugby currently taking place at Winters Park and the prospect of revenue from business use of its premises looming large, the club exercised its option to reclaim use of the and the testing centre closed last Tuesday.
“It was getting to the stage where it was starting to impinge on the earnings we could make,” said a Penrith Rugby Club spokesman. “It was always going to be a short-term arrangement.
“They came to us in April because they had run out of local site options and we agreed as part of our contribution to community requirement.
“However, while we were happy to retain its use whilst we were in lockdown, as COVID regulations have eased our business and meeting demand has started to revert to something like previous levels.
“The impact of the closure and loss of car park availability has significantly impacted on our finances and we need to recover usage of the club for business and social use given that competitive rugby at all levels is not likely to start in the immediate future.”
The nearest drive-through testing centre for members of the public is now located at Carlisle airport.
A Department for Health and Social Care spokesman told the Herald: “Drive-through regional testing sites were set up at great speed to provide access to tests for key workers across the UK.
“Sites were selected where there was immediate availability, as well as being secure and easily accessible.
“To make sure the regional testing site network remains available for as long as is needed, a small number of sites are being relocated.
“The drive-through testing site at the Penrith Rugby Club closed on Tuesday, 24th August, to allow the rugby club to begin a safe return to its normal operations, with a replacement drive-through testing site mobilised at Carlisle airport the next day to ensure there was continued testing capacity to meet regional demand.
“The DHSC has also recently opened a walk-through testing site at Castle (Devonshire Walk) car park in Carlisle and there are plans to open a further walk-through testing site in Penrith by early October as part of the Government’s UK-wide drive to improve the accessibility of coronavirus testing for communities.
“Mobile testing units are a flexible and agile testing solution — they are able to respond at short notice to local outbreaks across the country.”
For details of all the latest Cumbria testing sites, visit https://northcumbriaccg.nhs.uk/covidtesting